Reigning MVP Malcolm Smith is aiming to win the NBL Division One title for a second successive season as Team Northumbria moved to within eight points of league leaders Team Solent Kestrels with three games in hand.
“The whole strength of our team, even from last year, is sticking together and whatever we face in this league we find a way to overcome it,” said Smith.
“We have always had confidence. It’s just we don’t want to get caught up in the ups and downs. But now you see that we are winning and we believe in ourselves.
“As a team we still think we have a chance to win the league but our destiny is in our hands. It’s always been the plan and one of the many goals we are chasing this season.
“I believe we can win all the games in the schedule – we just have to go out there and execute the way we are supposed to.”
TN moved up to third in the second tier of British basketball on Saturday – leapfrogging Worthing Thunder after edging the West Sussex side 88-83 at Sport Central, hot on the heels of a thumping win at Hemel.
Smith managed a double-double with a game-high 30 points and 11 rebounds in 36 minutes to extend TN’s winning run to six games in the league.
However, it wasn’t smooth sailing throughout as Thunder mounted a magnificent comeback in the fourth quarter to bridge the score gap to just a single point after TN took an 18-point lead in the first.
The hosts prevailed and managed to limit former Worcester Wolves star Zaire Taylor to just 16 points – the reigning champions’ tight defence only allowing the NBL’s top scorer to sink one three-pointer all game.
“It would have been nice to keep an 18-point lead but in basketball things happen,” added Smith.
“JP (Jack Preston) is always the one to mark the opposition’s best player but today it was more of a team effort to contain Taylor. It was a challenge. We had to step up and I think we did.”
Next up TN travel down to Berkshire for a Saturday 5pm tip off against Reading Rockets – a team they beat back-to-back last season.
And Marc Steutel’s men are back in action at Sport Central less than 24 hours later when Lancashire Spinners visit Tyneside (4pm tip).
Report by Dan Simmonite